Two Comedies of Sex and Nudity, plays to sell
Two Comedies of Sex and Nudity, plays to sell

A review by Oliver Carnay

("It's Just Sex" cast members: Bryan Donovan, Cate Cohen, Carolyn Hennesy, Eric Lutes, Janelle Giumarra and Thomas Calabro)

"Doubting Thomas" cast members Sarah Whalen, Christopher Brewster, and James Arlen; not in picture are Bree Pavey and Jason Lovett.

LOS ANGELES—Two plays just open recently and I got lucky enough to enjoy both, by the invitation of a theatre publicist.

Sex and nudity in plays may likely to intrigue a jaundiced audience, but in the two (two-act) comedies, Christopher Brewster’s “Doubting Thomason” and Jeff Gould’s “It’s Just Sex,” plot and performances carry the day, not sex and nudity.

Jeff Gould’s re-staging of “It’s Just Sex” at the Zephyr Theater (on Melrose Ave.) is notable for its cast and performances. In the play, three couples meet for occasional dinner parties. But the morning before such house party, Joan (Carolyn Hennesy) finds her husband Phil (Eric Lutes) on their couch with a hooker (Tiffany Ellen Solano).

Enraged, she finds a way to seek revenge. That night, she offers to change the party game into a daring round of wife-swapping. Among the couples invited anticipated to participate are Carl (Thomas Calabro, who most of us know as the evil doctor Michael Mancini in the popular tv-series “Melrose Place”), who is consistently funny as the open-minded husband to wife Kelly (Janelle Guimarra), and the restrained Greg (Bryan T. Donovan) who is committed to his fussy wife, Lisa (Cate Cohen).

Their respective marriage teeter on collapse as three couples, away from their children, simultaneously risk their relationships as they move from experimental behavior to emotional and marital disaster. But along the way, honest discussions ensue -- sex comes second, they find -- marriages are saved. “It’s Just Sex” is a tasty, delectable crowd-pleaser!

Meanwhile, Christopher Brewster’s “Doubting Thomason” may shock with nude guys and topless girls. But intertwining the spectacle is clear storytelling that unrolls the plot. In it, a play called “Killer Joe,” known for its “violence, nudity and offbeat sex,” was scheduled to present in a week, but the company's theatre lost the rights to the play. With five actors and sets all on board, company playwright “Thomason” has the task of re-writing “Killer Joe” in order to have a play to present.

The actors, playing dual characters, pick up their roles with gusto. Thanks to its director Steve Jarrard. Notable and impressive is the quick character changes each one has to twirl in some scenes. Bree Pavey, who plays Lynette (the director) and Bonnie (the conniver) is spontaneous with her delivery of lines. Sarah Wahlen (as Kate/Blake) adds life to her “luscious” character. James Arlen (who plays the Murderin’ Ted and Jake) has his comedic moments. Jason Lovett’s tops ‘em with a commanding performance. Writer Christopher Brewster, invests the needed symphathy in playing Thomason and Robert.

Both plays are an enjoyable romp you shouldn’t miss. “It’s Just Sex” plays at the Zephyr Theatre (7456 Melrose Ave.) Fri-Sat at 8 PM, and Sundays at 7 PM. Call (323) 960.7721. “Doubting Thomason” plays at Two Roads Theatre (4348 Tujunga Ave. in Studio City). For reservations call (818) 795-0690.